The Dutch government is still counting on bringing two rare Rembrandts back to the Netherlands despite an offer by France to buy one of them, officials said Friday.
The two full-length portraits of a young couple painted by the Dutch master shortly before their wedding in 1634 have been owned by the wealthy Rothschild banking family since the mid-19th century and have rarely been seen in public.
On Monday Dutch Culture Minister Jet Bussemaker revealed that the Dutch government was willing to stump up half the 160 million euro ($190 million) price tag, with the remaining 80 million euros to be found by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
But her French counterpart Fleur Pellerin said Thursday Paris had submitted an offer to acquire one of the portraits for the Louvre, and that the paintings would alternate between the two museums.
Pellerin described it as "an innovative solution that would strengthen the cultural cooperation between France and the Netherlands."
Bussemaker told Dutch radio she had indeed been in touch with Pellerin several times over the past months to discuss the fate of the portraits.
But she added "I am assuming that we are still working on the original plan" that Holland would buy both paintings.
She stressed the Rothschild family would prefer both paintings to go to the Rijksmuseum, which already houses a major collection of Dutch art works including Rembrandt's famous painting "The Night Watch."
Bussemaker added however she would work to ensure France and the Netherlands do not get caught up in a bidding war.
"That seems highly undesirable for everyone," she said.
The portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit are believed to be in the collection of Eric de Rothschild.
The artnet website said they have only been publicly viewed once in the past 150 years, and Bussemaker has already stressed the importance of finally putting them on public display.